Right Livelihood (samyag ajiva) is the practice of earning a living in a mindful and compassionate manner. At its foundation is not violating the Five Precepts. The Five Precepts teach us not to kill, not to steal, to abstain from sexual misconduct, not to lie, and not to use mind-altering substances. In making our living, we must not violate these precepts. It has been explained by one of my teachers as not harming others in the way you make your living. We should not deal in arms, human beings, meat, intoxicants, nor unlawful labor.
Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh says on page 104 of his book The Heart of the Buddha’s Teachings, “To practice Right Livelihood (samyag ajiva), you have to find a way to earn your living without transgressing your ideals of love and compassion. The way you support yourself can be an expression of your deepest self, or it can be a source of suffering for you and others… Our vocation can nourish our understanding and compassion, or erode them. We should be awake to the consequences, far and near, of the way we earn our living.”
As the Fourth Precept says, we should abstain from using false speech. As discussed in the Five Precepts article, this is more than simply not lying. It also involves not using half-truths nor exaggerating. We must be careful that our professions do not require us to violate this precept of honesty. If we are to observe Right Livelihood, we must make our living through honesty and Right Speech.
We also must observe the Second Precept and not participate in stealing in our work. More than just not stealing, we must “not take that which is not freely given to us.” Obviously, we should not steal from our employer, co-workers, or employees. We also must be conscious of the social impact of the business or industry we are in. If we are hoping to learn to live in Right Livelihood, we must not work in businesses that utilize inhumane labor, deceive customers or suppliers, nor take advantage of the ignorance or cravings of others.
In earning our living, we must be mindful of the people we may be harming. Are we dealing in weapons, intoxicants, or breeding ignorance? Our jobs cannot cause harm on others; we must be compassionate and loving with our work. Practicing loving-kindness in our career, we cannot possibly harm others in any way.
One important aspect of Right Livelihood is our work attitude. We must not waste our employer’s time by doing other tasks while on the clock, give co-workers negative attitude, nor come late and leave early. Essentially, we must practice Right Effort in the workplace. Keeping a right attitude is very important to right livelihood, as we must work with mindfulness and love.
All in all, Right Livelihood is the practice of earning a living with mindfulness, compassion, loving-kindness, and respect.
In Buddhism, the Five Precepts are essentially the basic code of ethics. These practices are commonly undertaken by devotees and lay Buddhists alike. The Five Precepts are to abstain from killing, to abstain from taking that which is not freely given, abstain from sexual misconduct, abstain from false speech, and to abstain from substances which cause heedlessness.
The First Precept – Reverence for Life
The First Precept we undertake is commonly translated to, “I vow to abstain from killing any living creature.” At the most obvious level, this precept is about not killing living beings. We should kill neither animals nor humans. This includes murder, hunting, stepping on bugs, etc.
The reason for this precept is that we must learn to live with loving-kindness and reverence for all living beings. We often need to remind ourselves that each and every living being wishes to be happy. Although we may wish to hunt for fun or for food, it is not necessary. The karma of killing makes these actions not worth doing. When we kill, we bear the weight of the action; knowing we have killed causes suffering within.
Furthermore than simply not killing, we also must not contribute to the killing of other living things. This may include eating meat. In this case we are not actually killing the animal ourselves, but we are contributing to the killing of the animal. This precept teaches us not only that we must not kill, but that we must not aid in the harming of sentient beings.
The Second Precept – Not Stealing
The Second Precept that Buddhists undertake is, “I vow not to take that which is not freely given to me.” This precept is often simplified to not stealing. Whether it is by force, coercion, or deceit, we must not take that which has not been offered to us. Of course, this applies to literally stealing something that is somebody else’s property. It also includes manipulating and deceiving to get what is not ours.
In a broader sense, this precept includes more than just the conventional idea of “stealing.” When we buy products made by slave or inhuman labor forces, we are violating this precept. As with the First Precept, we must not contribute to stealing of any kind. We also must be mindful of where our actions are encouraging or endorsing taking things that are not freely offered.
Many Buddhist teachers point out that this precept is not only about not stealing, but about generosity. Rather than looking at what we should not steal, we look at what we can give. The practice of generosity helps us to be mindful of the happiness of other beings.
The Third Precept – Moral Sexual Conduct
The Third Precept to undertake is, “to abstain from sexual misconduct.” This precept is a little more personal than the others. However, there are basic actions that are not ethical under this precept. These include rape. adultery, and actions that violate other precepts. Of course, we also should abstain from sexual conduct that creates suffering in others. This means we do not lead people on, use others to fulfill our own cravings and desires, and do not engage in sexual conduct that is harmful to anyone.
This precept does not necessarily teach again sex before marriage, but some do interpret it this way. Observing this precept, we must not create suffering with our sexual conduct. Many Western Buddhists understand this teaching as abstaining from sexual conduct until both parties are in a monogamous, loving relationship. For this reason, this precept becomes personal and is a bit more individualized than the others.
When we are not mindful of our sexual conduct, we can cause great suffering. Sexual desires are a strong, primitive force behind human behavior. With such power, we have great potential to harm others and ourselves. We must continually be mindful of our sexual conduct, and create happiness rather than suffering.
The Fourth Precept – True Speech
The Fourth Precept is, “to abstain from false speech.” On the surface, this precept teaches us to abstain from lying. Lying does not serve ourselves well nor does it serve others well. When we lie, whether it be out of malice or fun, we create suffering around us.
Observing the Fourth Precept is more than just not lying. We also must watch out for half-truths, lying by omission, exaggeration, and understatements. Using true speech is using the whole truth. Although we may lie very little, we may find that we often exaggerate or tell half-truths. These are just as harmful as lying, and should not be dismissed. This precept is closely related to Right Speech.
The Fifth Precept – Staying Sober
The final of the Five Precepts that we undertake is, “I vow to abstain from substances which cause heedlessness.” Specifically, this precept is addressing alcohol, as it was written thousands of years ago. However, this precept is addressing the use of all substances that induce “heedlessness.” Some interpret this to mean alcohol and illicit drugs such as marijuana, opiates, and amphetamines. Others include nicotine and caffeine as substances to be abstained from.
Whatever you find to be your truth and suitable for your path, substances that cause carelessness must be avoided. When we are ingesting these substances, we lose clarity of mind that we would otherwise have. Although we may be mindful of this physiological change, our mind and bodies are functioning below the norm.
The Second Step of Alcoholics Anonymous states, “Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.” The principle behind Step Two is hope. The 2nd Step is also closely related to the Four Noble Truths of Buddhism, especially the Third Noble Truth.
Step Two and Hope
In Step One, we admit powerlessness over drugs and alcohol. We concede to our innermost selves that we are addicts, and practice rigorous self-honesty. In Step Two, we essentially do the opposite. We are offered hope for a seemingly hopeless state. The phrase, “Came to believe” tells us that our faith does not always happen instantly. It takes time. We slowly open our minds and hearts to see what the Twelve Steps have to offer us. As we know we are powerless over things and our lives are unmanageable, we are being offered a way to live a life manageable by a power greater than ourselves.
Step Two not only gives us hope in terms of a power greater than ourselves. In the Second Step, we are offered hope in a more general sense. We feel quite hopeless and as if there is nothing that will help us. Step Two is the door that once we begin to open, we are presented with a beautiful path of work toward a joyous and free life.
Step Two and the Third Noble Truth
In the First Step, we have our limits brought to light, and are practicing Right View. We recognize the first two Noble Truths of suffering and the causes of our suffering, which are our addiction and own powerlessness. In Step Two, we are presented with the reality of the Third Noble Truth: that the cessation of this suffering is possible. Just as the Second Step is beginning to open the door to the rest of the steps, the Third Noble Truth leads us into the Fourth Noble Truth of the Noble Eightfold Path.
The Third Noble Truth teaches us that ending suffering is indeed possible. Once we have learned to understand our suffering and see it clearly, we have the potential to eradicate it completely. The Third Noble Truth, like Step Two, is of hope. The possibility to progress and leave behind the suffering is a reality for each and every one of us.
Taking Step Two, we are believing in the a power greater than ourself (which in the Buddhist sense would be the Dharma). The Third Noble Truth assures us that this power truly can eradicate our suffering, just as the Second Step says the power can “restore us to sanity.”
Equanimity is the practice of treating things neutrally. We don’t judge or react; we experience things exactly as they are and do not add on. Speaking with a teacher recently, we discussed the different ways that equanimity work in our lives, and he clarified two unique examples.
Equanimity with Others
Equanimity with my relationships with others was not something I had given very much thought to. In our relationships with others, we find ourselves either becoming attached or detaching harshly. We are sometimes often the equanimity phrase, “May you be in charge of your own karma.” In this way, we learn to let go of the results. Our prayers or good wishes for someone else will not change them; it changes us. Practicing equanimity, we recognize this and let go fo the outcomes.
In working with others, we often become attached to their progress. When a sponsee relapses, a child fails a class, or a loved one is in pain, we sometimes feel at least partially responsible. All we can do is practice metta, touch their pain with compassion, and appreciate the happiness of others. However, as the phrase we use says, others must take control of their own karma. Rather than see it as detaching, we are simply letting go of our attachment to their happiness. This end of the spectrum is essentially not being codependent. When someone is unhappy, we don’t blame ourselves. We do what we can and leave their suffering up to them. We continue to send metta and compassion his or her way.
At the other end of this is completely detaching. This is also not healthy. Sometimes when a child, sponsee, or loved one continues to create their own suffering (with drug use, poor judgement, anger, etc.) we become cold and calloused. We detach strongly, losing compassion and care. When they are suffering or make mistakes, we act with anger or even malice. The practice here is the same: we must act with love and compassion without becoming attached to the outcome. We may repeat the phrases in meditation or throughout the day, “May you be at ease,” “May you be happy,” “May you be free from suffering,” and “May you be in charge of your own karma.” These phrases are of metta, mudita, karuna, and upekkha.
Equanimity is also very applicable with our responses to emotions and thoughts. As commonly discussed, our natural reaction is to avert from unpleasant feelings and to attach to anything that pleases us. When we have unpleasant feelings, we label them as bad or negative. We do this similarly with pleasant feelings. Practicing equanimity, we focus on the direct experience.
With negative emotions, we label them as negative and bad. With equanimity, we must simply focus on the direct experience, rather than adding more things on. Sharon Salzberg calls these things exactly what they are: add-ons. These add-ons serve us no purpose. They are a product of our survival instincts and societal conditioning. When we add on, we are living in delusion and without compassion. Recognizing the truth, we see simply that an unpleasant emotion is just an unpleasant emotion.
We must so similarly with pleasant emotions. Rather than attach and crave more, we must recognize the pleasant feeling as just a pleasant feeling. A phrase offered to me by my teacher for this is, “May I treat things as they truly are.” It has to do with Right View, and seeing the true nature of our thoughts and emotions.
Practicing equanimity, we are able to live in a neutral, joyous position. We don’t cling to pleasant feelings nor avert from unpleasant ones. We also are not letting our joy rest in the hands of others. We are able to live freely and joyously.
You may find any position comfortable for this meditation. You may sit, lie down, or do it while walking. As before, begin by centering yourself, however works for you. When you find yourself in a calm, present state, bring up a negative emotion you have recently felt. It may be anger, jealousy, anxiety, fear, or anything else that comes to mind.
As an emotion comes to mind, focus on how you feel about having had this emotion. Do you feel embarrassed or ashamed? Do you feel as if you should have prevented it from arising? Do you judge yourself based on it?
Change the label from bad or negative to painful in your mind. Recognize that this emotion was neither negative nor wrong. It simply was a painful emotion you experienced. Truly touching the pain behind the emotion, change your relationship to it.
You may notice where you feel the emotion in your body. You may feel it in your neck, knees, back, feet, hips, etc. Treat the emotion and sensations with loving-kindness; recognize the pain and don’t be harsh.
It is our tendency when we experience a painful emotion to judge ourselves, feel like we could do better, or avert from it. Don’t run. Simply recognize the pain behind it, and touch it with a compassionate heart. When “bad” or “wrong” come back into our minds, let it go by touching the suffering.
When you feel ready, you may end this meditation. If you would like, you may continue with another emotion you have experienced recently.
Right View (samyag drishti) is often the first of the Noble Eightfold Path of Buddhism. Right view is the practice of seeing things as they really are, or recognizing the true nature. Before anything, Right View is a full understanding of the Four Noble Truths. Sariputra said that Right View was the ability to distinguish wholesome roots from unwholesome roots.
One of the most fundamental issues having to do with Right View is our perception. The Buddha told Subhuti, “Where there is perception, there is deception.” The teaching here is that our perceptions affect everything we experience, and we must be careful in trusting our perception. Our human nature, conditioned brains, and closed hearts cause our perceptions to consistently deceive us. Our perception is dependent upon everything going on within us, and as we change, so does our perception. The Buddha taught that our perceptions are nearly all erroneous.
Right View vs. Wrong View
When we speak of Right View, it is often compared to having a Wrong View. Right View is seeing things as they are, recognizing our suffering is of our own making, and not trying to control the external world. We must look at our own mind. In this sense “wrong view” is doing the opposite; it is blaming others for our suffering, trying to control things, and not seeing things as they are.
However, many Buddhist teachers agree that most every view is truly a wrong view. Having Right View, we let go of our perceptions and attachment to them. Any view is still a view, and not recognizing the true nature of things, and thus wrong. However, this is a more advanced concept.
The truth of Right View is that we must focus the mind on the mind. Rather than focusing our mind externally on things we come across, we must focus our minds on our minds. Looking at ourselves, we see the First Noble Truth, that there is suffering. We also recognize the Second Noble Truth, the cause of our suffering. The root of our suffering is our own minds. Our fear, delusion, craving, and attachment create almost all of our suffering.
Recognizing this with Right View, the door opens to focusing our minds on our minds, concentrating on ourselves. As Ghandi said, “We must be the change we wish to see in the world.” We cannot change the external, but we can change our minds, our delusions, and our unwholesome behaviors.
One year ago at this moment, I was driving from Los Angeles to San Francisco. I was to stay at my parents’ house for a night, then drive with my mom from San Francisco to Portland, Oregon. The plan upon arriving to Oregon was to turn myself in to the Washington County Sheriff’s Department for a federal warrant that had been issued in my name. I had spoken with a lawyer, and was walking blindly into the situation, without a real knowledge of what would happen.
With my mom at my side, I walked up to the clerk’s desk at the Sheriff’s station at 6am and let them know I was turning myself in for a warrant. They took my ID and ran my name. An officer came out, handcuffed me, and walked me from the station over to the county jail, with my mom at my side. My mom cried as the officer told her she could not hug me, and he led me into the jail.
I got arraigned that day, and released on bail. I spent the next week and a half in a motel in Portland and bouncing around friends’ houses. On my court date, the judge heard the situation, and sentenced me to 30 days in county jail. Expecting less time, my heart immediately started racing. I asked my lawyer if there was anything we could do, but there was not. My mom gave me a serious hug, the kind only moms can give, and away I went.
I spent the next 30 days in the violent criminal cell pod. Not being “hard” or very much of a thug at all, I had no choice but to keep to myself. Thirty days goes by awfully slow all alone in jail. I had expectations of a lesser sentence, and the first few days of processing before getting into general population were extremely painful. I found myself reaching for a Higher Power of some sort, only to find that my conscious contact was almost non-existant. The faith that I had been professing and felt for the past few years suddenly eluded me. My first few days were full of an intense struggle to make sense of my situation.
Here I was, a 21 year old young man, raised in an upper-middle class family with all the opportunities in the world. I had been through my troubled times, but felt I had come out the other side. I was almost two years sober, had active service commitments in Alcoholics Anonymous, had panels with Hospitals and Institutions, had started new meetings in my community, had a sponsor, had sponsees, tried to practice the principles in all of my affairs, and had been meditating on and off. Where had I gone wrong?
I quickly realized that it was only up to me to decide how the 30 days in jail went. I wrote A LOT. I meditated more in those thirty days than the rest of my life combined. I prayed like it was life or death. And it was for me. My own behavior had ended me up here, and it was about time I find a better way to behave. Rather than look at the symptoms (my behavior), I took a look at the causes for the first time. I dove deeper than before.
There are a few things that stick out to this day as great spiritual experiences I had there. First, I reached for a Higher Power with complete surrender and total desperation. Where I had tried other solutions in the past, this conscious contact was really my only option. The key to this was for me to learn to accept without necessarily understanding. As I prayed and meditated, hoping to find some lessons to be learned in this situation, I found that the lesson was to accept, and have faith that each moment can be a teacher if I let it be. I truly turned my will and my life over to my Higher Power, which was meditation at the moment.
The next thing I came across was a feeling of truly living. It seems strange at first to think of experiencing true living in jail. However, when I awoke each morning, I had no agenda. The only thing I had to do was eat, drink, and live. I didn’t have work, school, relationships, meetings, or anything else on my mind. There was nothing I needed to do. What I learned from this was a very simple yet powerful idea: staying present. I was able to pray, meditate, eat, read, and live fully in the moment, without worrying about what I had to do later. Waiting for my time to be up, there was no action I could take to improve my situation except stay present.
Finally, as I began to dive into the cause of my behavior, I found out a lot. I found that my behavior was caused by fear, not by loving-kindness. I found my fears were controlling me at times, with my permission. I let my fears build and build until I had “no mental defense against the first” unskillful behavior. As I uncovered the fears, I made a conscious effort to begin addressing my fears before they were powerful enough to control my actions.
After being released from jail, this last lesson grew into a regular way of life for me. I began meditating far more frequently, and with far less expectations. I eventually found that although the 11th Step of Alcoholics Anonymous suggested prayer and meditation, my meditation practice was closely associated with my Tenth Step. As I began to meditate more often, my mindfulness and the Dharma began to permeate my everyday life. My personal inventory has become far easier, and at some times involuntary.
An example of this is this story of me taking a test at UCLA last week. I filled out the first page of the test without a problem. I knew every answer right off the top of my head. Flipping to the second page, I read the first three questions, and I had absolutely no idea how to answer them. My heart rate immediately increased, my hands shook, and my head raced. Within just a few seconds, I found myself taking a seriously deep breath. Just as the increase in heart rate was an involuntary reaction, so was the deep breath. I didn’t do the normal, “Take a deep breath. It will help.” The thought did not even enter my consciousness. I simply responded by taking a deep breath.
This is just a simple example of how the meditation practice I acquired in jail works in my life today. With this meditation practice and mindfulness, I am able to notice when something doesn’t feel right within me. Rather than wait until it is controlling me completely, I catch it earlier and earlier. I’m not perfect, but I have come a long way.
A year ago today I was on my way to jail. Terrified, confused, and close-minded I entered. I came out with a gift that I cannot truly describe in words, but I feel it. I feel it in my relationships with myself, with the world around me, and with my Higher Power. My relationship with my family has greatly improved over the last year, my intimate relationships have improved, I respond far better to emotions I deem negative, and I make conscious contact daily.
A year ago today I could have never even imagined the gifts that would come from my journey. I feel I have made more spiritual progress in this past year than any other year of my life, including my first year sober. Thank you to everyone who helped me get from there to here, and I look forward to sharing the journey with you all.
There are numerous ways in which people compare Buddhism and Twelve-Step programs. One of the easiest similarities to see between Buddhism and recovery is in the Three Jewels and the AA Triangle symbol. A simple connection to make, these two ideas from two different spiritual programs tie together beautifully.
The Three Jewels of Buddhism
The Three Jewels of Buddhism, also referred to as the Three Refuges and the Triple Gem, are the three things in which Buddhists take refuge in, or look to guidance for.
The first of the Three Refuges is the Buddha. The Buddha is the chief form of inspiration for Buddhists. Through the Buddha’s life, he showed that salvation from dukkha is possible indeed. Looking to the Buddha for refuge is twofold. It is both looking to the spirit of the Buddha for guidance, as well as looking to our own Buddha-seed for inspiration.
The Dharma is the second of the Three Jewels. The Dharma is the term that literally means the Way of Nature, and in Buddhism refers to the teachings taught by Shakyamuni Buddha. The Dharma teaches us the way to enlightenment and sukkha, and away from dukkha. When someone takes refuge in the Dharma, they are essentially seeking guidance in the path, or the teachings of the Buddha.
The Sangha is most commonly translated as “community.” Although the Sangha refers to monastic communities in traditional Buddhism, it also refers to the association of like-minded Buddhists seeking to gain spiritually. To some Buddhists, the Sangha may refer to anyone seeking any kind of spiritual realization. When we seek refuge in the Sangha, we are looking to the community for guidance. Taking refuge in the Sangha includes learning from community atmosphere, relating to others, and helping others along their path.
The A.A. Triangle
The triangle of Alcoholics Anonymous is no longer an official symbol, but is commonly seen online, on chips and coins, and on adornments. The circle inside the triangle is a symbol recognized by most every member of Alcoholics Anonymous. An ancient symbol used to symbolize the mind, body, and spirit, the triangle is a deep symbol. Called the three legacies, the triangle stands for three important aspects of the program.
The bottom of the triangle stands for recovery. Recovery includes the twelve steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, and is the bottom part, as it is what supports both unity and service. Recovery is following the steps and the program that is outlined in the book. Recovery is often associated with the mind, or the mental obsession.
Unity is the second part of the triangle. Unity is uncovered in the Twelve Traditions of Alcoholics Anonymous, and is what keeps us together. As the First Tradition of AA states, “Our common welfare should come first; personal recovery depends upon A.A. unity.” Unity is being a part of regular meetings, having commitments, and being a part of the community. Unity is associated with the physical craving, or the body.
The last, but definitely not least important, part of the triangle is service. Service is an integral part of the program of Alcoholics Anonymous, and includes taking others through the steps. Contained in the Twelve Concepts, service is associated with the spiritual malady, or the spirit.
The first similarity between the two symbols can be found between Recovery and the Dharma. Recovery is following the path of the Twelve Steps discussed in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, and the Dharma is following the teachings and path laid out by the Buddha. Although the paths being followed may be different, the principle is almost exactly the same.
The next similarity is between the Sangha and Unity and Service. Unity and Service both involve being an active part of the community, both in learning from each other and being of service, just as taking refuge in the Sangha suggests. When we take refuge in the Sangha, we look to the community for guidance. This may come in many forms. Two great examples are through being of service to the community, and becoming an active part of the community. One of the reasons meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous are so important is because they provide a place for us to not feel so alone, just as taking refuge in the Sangha suggests.
The Buddha is not left out either. Seeking refuge in the Buddha in the sense of looking to our fellows for inspiration can be found in the Unity part of the triangle. Seeking refuge in the Buddha-seed within can be found in the Recovery aspect of the triangle. When we take the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, I like to think we are working to uncover our Buddha-nature within. When we look to sponsors, we are looking to figures that are “enlightened” in the context of Alcoholics Anonymous. To be clear, when we look to someone that has worked the steps and continues to work them, we are looking to someone who has found something that we want.
Buddhism and Twelve Step recovery go together very well in many ways, and this is just one. I find that although the ideas may not all be exactly the same, they are often complimentary, and Buddhism may help me better understand my program, just as my program may help me better understand my Buddhism.
I have been reading a lot of Thich Nhat Hanh recently. If you are not familiar with him, he is a Vietnamese Buddhist Monk who teaches at Plum Village, has authored many books, and a strong peace advocate. Considered by many as the most influential figure in Zen Buddhism, Thich Nhat Hanh has been paramount in bringing Buddhism to the West.
Thich Nhat Hanh insists that it is through living in the present moment that we find happiness. Relating core Zen Buddhist principles to modern life is one of the many things he has to offer. During his speeches, he often rings a small bell to remind the listeners to return to the present moment.
When Thich Nhat Hanh is with is students, he often asks them the simple question, “What are you doing?” He asks this when it is most obvious what the student is doing, with the intention of bringing them back to what they are doing, and nothing more. The idea behind this is for us to stay present. Regardless of what we are doing, we have the opportunity to live fully in the moment and enjoy what we are doing. The Buddha often said, “Drishta dharma sukha viharin,” which is most commonly translated as, “Dwell happily in things as they are.” Although this may be easier in certain situations than others, we nonetheless have the choice to make the most of our experience.
Another concept that Thich Nhat Hanh often uses is to smile. He stresses the importance of smiling at the world upon awakening, and smiling at intervals throughout the day. Upon practicing this, I have found extreme value in it. When I smile, it encourages a lighthearted, compassionate feeling, and I am almost immediately struck with at least a slight decrease in anxiety.
My sponsor often tells me that my phone is one of the greatest tools I progress for spiritual growth. I can use it to reach out to other members of Alcoholics Anonymous, get in contact with sponsees, read the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, and one more key thing that I have just discovered. With my phone, I set a reminder every day with two things. The first reminder I set for myself it to smile. Twice a day, my phone pops up with a reminder that simply says, “Smile!” Upon seeing this reminder, I follow instructions and smile! I also set a reminder with the question, “What are you doing?” This reminds me to live in the present moment and stay focused on enjoying exactly what I am doing.
These two reminders cover very basic Buddhist principles for me. They are also very helpful in terms of Buddhism and recovery. In Twelve-Step meetings, we are often reminded, “One Day at a Time.” For me, I have to take things one moment at a time. The reminders I set help me practice Right Mindfulness in everyday life. Although I do regularly meditate as a part of my Tenth Step and Buddhism, I know that I must practice mindfulness and self-awareness in everyday life.
Just as meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous are refueling stations for life outside the rooms, meditation is good practice for life outside of our meditation routine. The 12th Step of Alcoholics Anonymous suggests that we “practice these principles in all our affairs.” Although the rooms help us learn from our fellows, hear stories, and learn about ourselves, we must take what we learn outside the rooms if we are to thrive. Similarly, in Buddhism, meditation has much value, and it is through meditation that we calm the mind, realize the nature of our true being, and learn to let go of our attachment to thoughts, feelings, and perceptions. However, we also must take these principles outside our meditation.
I use my phone to remind me to practice the most basic of Buddhist principles, as I am often so wrapped up in my thoughts, that I forget to smile or be present. When my phone goes off, Buddhism slaps me in the face. I am brought back to the present moment, to enjoying my moment, and to not get caught in the future nor the past.